Learning Is the Key to Self-Sustainability; Lifelong Education Not Only Enhances Social Inclusion, but Also Active Citizenship and Personal Development

Cape Times (South Africa), September 9, 2019 | Go to article overview

Learning Is the Key to Self-Sustainability; Lifelong Education Not Only Enhances Social Inclusion, but Also Active Citizenship and Personal Development


AS A PROPONENT of selfless leadership, I had no expectations of financial reward and public recognition when I was appointed to serve on the board of the South African Qualification Authority (Saqa) in 1995. Like any other member of a board in the new dispensation, let alone one of the first trade union leaders (as Fedusa general secretary) to be on the Saqa board, the challenges my fellow board members and I faced were enormous. It was a period of pain and gain.

When we started with our work, there was a lot of resistance, as there still is today, to transformation. We had to start with the reform process to undo all the apartheid legislation affecting workers like, for instance, the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Condition of Employment Act and also the Board-Based Employment Act. Like any other government entity, Saqa had a challenge of under funding. It had limited resources and had to do with what it had.

However, by the time I completed the mandatory two terms of three years (1995 to 2001), we had made many strides in transforming the sector even though a lot still needed to be done.

Today, for instance, six million young people are out of work, the employment equity report shows that 70 percent of senior positions are filled by white males, and the fact that many companies are refusing to invest in the economy resulting in high unemployment and massive inequality.

So, It was a pleasant surprise and proud moment for me when the Saqa board decided to grant me a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Award for my contribution on September 5, 2019, in Johannesburg.

Accepting that award from Saqa board chairperson, Dr Vuyelwa Toni-Penxa, for representing workers on the first and second board of Saqa, I truly felt honoured.

Receiving the NQF Award on September 5, 2019, was significant since the architect of apartheid and the Bantu education system, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, was born on September 8, 1901, in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Verwoerd argued that "there is no place for (the Bantu) in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. "What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live".

In a democratic South Africa, the first Board of Saqa in 1994, inherited from the apartheid era a racially segregated, unequal and unfair education and training system. Thus, in the apartheid system, most black people had been denied access to education, training, development and work opportunities. The quality assurance system was uneven and not transparent, whilst there was a general lack of parity between the different types of qualifications, learning and knowledge paths.

The Saqa board also found that most of the qualifications was not necessarily linked to specific learning pathways. Analysing the education and training scenario then, it became abundantly clear to me that the grand plan of the colonial masters was to subject our people to poverty and unemployment with no skills to participate in the economy. This perpetuated an inferior schooling system for the country's majority.

Education expert Graeme Bloch postulates that in 1953, finances for black and white schools were separated, and black children were given significantly less than white children. In 1975/76, the state spent R644 annually on each white pupil, R189 per Indian pupil, R139 on a coloured pupil, and only R42 on an African pupil. To further aggravate the situation there was also a lack of black teachers, and many of those who were teaching were underqualified. In 1961, only 10 percent of black teachers held a matriculation certificate. …

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